Tuesday, Feb. 25: Blood of a Poet
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Theatre (FREE)
Unless you've taken cinema classes at some point in your education, there's a decent chance the work of Jean Cocteau has passed you by without incident. Creator of some of avant garde cinema's most indelible imagery, his first film makes an appearance in Milwaukee as part of UWM's “Experimental Tuesday” program. Art takes on a life of its own in this story of a drawn mouth which gives voice to a statue which gives birth to a dimension-hopping mirror and a card game with celestial stakes. It's a wholly unique vision and one that will prove transportive when viewed on the big screen.
Wednesday, Feb. 26: Thrill of Romance
7:30 p.m. @ Charles Allis Art Museum ($7/$5/free for adults/seniors and students/museum members)
Charles Allis' run of late winter musical offerings continues with this, the second pairing of Esther Williams and Van Johnson on the big screen that proved a box-office sensation upon its initial release in the mid-40s. The story of a married woman falling in love with a war hero at the outset of her honeymoon, you can be assured that the film wastes no time in ensuring Williams (the so-called “Million Dollar Mermaid,” known for her record-breaking swimming acumen previous to her acting career) turns this into an “aqua-musical,” combining the musical with synchronized swimming in a way that spoke to audiences. As anachronistic as it may seem today that movies were once built around such premises, it's well-worth checking out for yourself!
Thursday, Feb. 27: Blow Up
7 p.m. @ UWM Union Theatre (FREE)
Why not also treat yourself to one of the greatest movies ever made this week when Blow Up screens for free at the Union Theatre? A benchmark in the massive filmography of Italian director Michael Antonioni, this story of a swinging photographer's dark discovery in the background of one of his pieces is a true masterpiece of cinema. Simultaneously exploring artistic ennui alongside ’60s-era existentialism, Antonioni masterfully edits and frames his story and confronts the viewer with a potent question: Do things become more or less clear the longer you focus on them? If you've yet to see this masterwork, you owe it to yourself to check it out on a big screen.
Thursday, Feb. 27: Age of Champions
10:30 a.m. @ Newcastle Place, 2:30 p.m. @ Marcus Majestic
As science continues to extend the human life out comfortably further and further into old age, we have to continue recalibrating what it means to age in our society. A documentary that proves growing older isn't an impediment to achievement, Age of Champions is an award-winning PBS documentary that follows five competitors training for the National Senior Olympics. With such indelible characters as a 100-year-old tennis champion and a 86-year-old pole vaulter, it looks to be a wonderful portrait of aging that proves that growing older doesn't mean growing incapable.
Thursday, Feb. 27 & Friday, Feb. 28: The Dark Side of Oz
Feb. 28 at 10 p.m. & March 1 at midnight @ Times Cinema ($5)
A stoner perennial makes its first appearance on the cinematic calendar this year when The Wizard of Oz is presented in conjunction with Pink Floyd's landmark album Dark Side of the Moon at the Times this week. Be it wild coincidence or meaningful connection fraught with cosmic import, there are multiple moments where the two pieces of art intersect that will prove intriguing to adventurous cinemagoers, perhaps more so if one supplements their daily intake with hallucinogenics. Since I've still found no takers for my “Slayer's Reign in Blood syncs perfectly with My Big Fat Greek Wedding” experiment, this in tandem with the week's earlier Cocteau screening make for a banner week in psychedelic cinema.
Friday, Feb. 28: The Wind Rises
Opens Friday @ Oriental Theatre in both dubbed and English-subtitled versions
After what has been an interminable wait for myself, Hayao Miyazaki's latest (and perhaps final, if this particular retirement announcement sticks) finally makes its way to the Milwaukee area, with the added bonus of being screened with English subtitles, a lovely wrinkle that I don't think has been offered with his more recent output if memory serves. The Wind Rises is a biopic of engineer Jiro Horikoshi, one of the world's most innovative aeronautics designers. Some critics have attacked this biopic for soft-pedaling on the ultimate uses of some of his work, but now we're finally being given the chance to judge for ourselves. This is one of cinema's greatest living artists, and we're all lucky to be afforded one last opportunity to while away the hours in the warm embrace of his masterful vision.
Saturday, March 1-Sunday, March 2: Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?
March 1 at 7 p.m. & March 2 at 5 p.m. @ UWM Union Theatre ($6/5/4)
Michel Gondry, the visionary artist behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Science of Sleep, and countless others, has for a long time now been supplementing his feature film work with documentary excursions. - 2009's The Thorn in the Heart was an examination of his aunt's life while Is the Man Who is Tall Happy? is Gondry's animated recreation of a recorded conversation between himself and Noam Chomsky. One of our most towering modern intellectuals combined with one of our most fantastical modern visualists should make for a pretty appealing cinematic experience, and the trailer looks equal parts thought-provoking and whimsical.