Film society fills void of art flicks
While Showcase Cinemas has slowly begun showing more eclectic fare, there are still many works that slip through the cracks. And that void is apparent to area cinema lovers.
That makes the Open Cities Film Society all the more vital.
The group of area movie buffs began showing a blend of art films and classics in 1979, and continues to screen flicks every Friday at 8 p.m. at the Nighswander Junior Theater, 2816 Eastern Ave., Davenport (with occasional showings at Galvin Fine Arts Center).
``We're an alternative to the commercial cinemas in town,'' Bob King, head of Open Cities, said. ``There are films that play everywhere, and basically, we don't show those films. We show foreign-language films which never play here, and we show some of the lesser-known films that don't play here, and we show classic movies that are never seen on the big screen.''
While Open Cities isn't able to get independent films during their first runs, oftentimes the shows still haven't made it into Q-C video stores by the time Open Cities screens them. Even if they have, seeing a film on the big screen still beats the tiny tube for most cineastes.
``We don't want people to just think of these movies as things you have to watch at home on the VCR,'' Mr. King said. ``You show it on a real screen in a real theater and a lot of the films come alive that way. It's a great experience.
``Even at most modern theaters you don't get the theater experience, because they're so small and claustrophobic. Nighswander is like the old neighborhood movie houses that used to be in the city.''
The Open Cities schedule this year includes commercially ignored critical faves like the brilliant must-see ``Red'' and the fascinating ``I Shot Andy Warhol.'' Alongside those recent works are golden oldies like ``Splendor in the Grass,'' ``M'' and ``Manhattan.''
``It's interesting, we have a lot of different tastes,'' Mr. King said. ``There are different groups that come to different kinds of movies. For example, some people don't come to any foreign-language films, and some people don't come to any movies that aren't American.''
The films are chosen by the 12-member society based on audience picks from the previous year, personal tastes, film availability and cost. Most shows run the not-for-profit society $100 to $500. However, the higher the cost, the harder it is to break even, considering the standard ``donation'' of $3.50 admission, Mr. King said. ``It's a voluntary donation, but without people making donations there wouldn't be a society.''
Usually, the movies draw an audience of about 100, but there have been a few that packed the place, most notably ``Gone With The Wind'' and ``Babette's Feast.'' Last year's big successes were Oscar-nominated flicks that hadn't yet made it to the area -- ``Mighty Aphrodite'' and ``Il Postino.''
``Those were the big surprises, both of them had gotten good word of mouth and people were looking forward to seeing them,'' Mr. King said.
However, when you're dealing with the avant garde, sometimes you don't get so lucky. After all, the works of directors like Godard and Fellini often can be challenging to viewers.
``We once showed a Bunuel film from about 30 or 40 years ago,'' Mr. King said. ``We had people coming just because it was a Spanish language film. But he's very famous for his surreal ways, and a lot of these people were not used to these surreal ways and they were just kind of shaking their heads.''
The same thing can occur with some of the harder-hitting works.
``We do get complaints sometimes,'' he said. ``Usually, people don't like films that are depressing or really vulgar. We rarely show films like that, and when you're showing the classic Hollywood stuff you never have to worry about content. But sometimes there can be good films that have some pretty strong content.''
If you're in the mood for something a little different than the big-budget blockbusters, Open Cities is the place. To get on their mailing list, write The Open Cities Film Society, 820 W. 59th St., Davenport, 52806.
-- By Sean Leary (February 9, 1998)
Copyright © 1998 Moline Dispatch Publishing Company, L.L.C.