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Movie Preview: Mindbenders Film Series

There’s something new coming up next weekend on the cinema scene in Cincinnati. The Art Academy of Cincinnati in Over the Rhine is hosting “MindbendersFilm Series: A Far-Out Film Series,” presented by Pumpkin Productions and the newly reinvigorated Cincinnati Film Society. Screenings will be held Friday through Sunday, June 28-30, in the Art Academy’s auditorium, with a different film each day. There are two Cincinnati premieres, and the premiere of a restored classic.

Unfortunately, the film I wanted to see most was not available for preview, but I did get to see the trailer. On Friday, at 7:30 pm, the festival begins with Blancanieves. If you are up on your Spanish, you know that translates as “Snow White.” This twist on the fairy tale in directed by Pablo Berger, and stars Maribel Verdu, who was in Pan's Labyrinth. The twist is that it’s a black-and-white silent film set in the milieu of a bullring in 1920’s Spain…with a female matador. If that isn’t enough to grab your attention, you should go the film’s website and watch the trailer, as I did. There is eye-popping imagery, reminiscent of Luis Bunuel that will make you want to be first in line to get a ticket. Not to mention that Blancanieves was the official Spanish entry for last year’s Oscars. It lost to France’s Amour.

Saturday, also at 7:30 pm, is the Cincinnati Premiere of Berberian Sound Studio, from director Peter Strickland, and starring Toby Jones, who has notably played both Truman Capote and Alfred Hitchcock over the past few years. In this homage to 1970s-style Italian “giallo” thrillers of Dario Argento, and the horror films of Mario Bava, Jones plays a quiet, perhaps even repressed British sound recording engineer who is summoned to Rome to work on an Italian film, not knowing it’s a horror film. He’s never done one, and is quite disturbed by what he is shown as he works adding effects, music, and more. How disturbed he really becomes is for you to discover. For me, the film didn’t quite work, but I did like the fact that the audience is only exposed to the visceral violence in the unseen film-on-film through dialogue commentary by the cast and crew of the production, although we do see many vegetables harmed in the creation of some of the effects. The projector light flickers, the tape recorders roll, the sound dubbers scream, much like in Brian DePalma’sBlow-Out, as we watch Jones’s character change. Although not great, Berberian Sound Studio does have appeal as a look inside the moviemaking process in the days when it was 35mm film, magnetic audiotape, and all manner of analog devices. If nothing else, perhaps it will spur you to seek out the films of Argento and Bava to see what inspired the filmmakers in the first place.

The final film, on Sunday at 2:00 pm, is Ornette: Made in America. This 1985 documentary by Shirley Clarke was long unavailable until a recent resurgence of restoration by Milestone Films of many of her works. It’s a loving look at the free-jazz style of Ornette Coleman, and how he spearheaded this musical movement. It’s more of an experimental music style as opposed to straight-ahead Monk or Mingus, but as a chapter in the history of American jazz, is worth catching.

None of the films are rated, but are quite obviously not for kids.

“Mindbenders: A Far-Out Film Series” is showing Friday and Saturday of this week at 7:00 pm, and next Sunday at 2 pm, at the Art Academy of Cincinnati in Over the Rhine.