Film Reviews: Wednesday, February 27, 2003
The Magnolia at the Modern
6pm & 8pm Fri and 2pm & 4pm Sun (times may vary for longer films). Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. $5.50-7.50. 817-738-9215.
Museum Pieces

The Magnolia andthe Modern bring new,strange films to Fort Worth.


Art lovers have flooded the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth since last December to see the artworks in the stunning new building designed by Tadao Ando. In the last three weeks, however, they’ve also been going there to watch movies. Having begun earlier this month with Nanette Burstein and Brett Morgen’s documentary The Kid Stays in the Picture, the Modern, in conjunction with Dallas’ Magnolia Theater, has been showing art films in its handsomely appointed 250-seat auditorium twice every Friday night and Sunday afternoon, for about the price of a regular movie ticket. (For a brief time, a group of investors were considering the 7th Street Theatre across the street as an art film venue, until the Modern’s benefactors, led by Anne Marion, swung the wrecking ball instead.)

“The Modern contacted us and really pushed the concept,” said Tearlach Hutcheson, Magnolia’s director of operations. The repertory list was compiled jointly by the Magnolia’s and the Modern’s personnel, and it includes films that played at Dallas’ Inwood and Angelika theaters as well as the Magnolia. Instead of major movie studios, the distributors of these films are the likes of Wellspring Media, Lot 47 Films, Cowboy Pictures, and IFC Films. Don’t expect Miramax, a major studio that also owns the rights to many independent and foreign films, to offer any items to the Modern. “The [major] studios wouldn’t be interested,” museum director Marla Price said, “because it’s only four screenings per week.”

The program relies on ticket sales to stay afloat, according to Price, who also noted that no concessions are available. She said that the Modern pays flat fees for projection capabilities and rentals, which are the rights to obtain the film prints from the distributors. “If no one comes to these screenings,” she said, “we lose money.” (This doesn’t appear to be a problem at the moment — at least for Hutcheson, who described himself as “blown away” by early attendance figures.) Why show the films at all, especially without financial prospects? “We already have music, a lecture series, and other programs,” said Price, whose idea it was. “Film was the one thing that was lacking.” She also said that many other world-class museums have extensive programs, with New York’s Museum of Modern Art and San Francisco’s Museum of Modern Art both having permanent collections and curatorial staff dedicated to film. “We wanted to provide films to the community that weren’t available to Fort Worth in any other way.”

Three of the first four movies in the series actually were shown in Fort Worth, but you had to move fast to catch them. The Kid Stays in the Picture, Dover Kosashvili’s Israeli comedy Late Marriage, and Zacharias Kunuk’s Inuit epic Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner) played in Fort Worth theaters last year, only to disappear one week after opening. “These independent films have been getting buried at the multiplex,” said Hutcheson. “That’s not the place to see them.” The three Fort Worth retreads were only a temporary measure. “Our intention is to show movies that are entirely new [to Fort Worth],” said Hutcheson.

The end of March features a showing of I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, Sam Jones’ ragged but enticing documentary about the alt-rock band Wilco. Intended as a standard behind-the-music chronicle, the film wound up capturing the rift between band members Jeff Tweedy and Jay Bennett. Bennett’s subsequent expulsion from the group may be insufficiently explained, but his interview in the aftermath of that is pathetically funny, as he reveals himself to be sadly deluded about his importance to the band. The entry for the following week is Morvern Callar, a film not yet scheduled to open in Dallas. Directed by Lynne Ramsay, a young Scottish filmmaker with a fully formed and highly individual style, it stars Samantha Morton (Sweet and Lowdown, Minority Report) as a Glaswegian supermarket clerk who tells no one about finding her boyfriend dead by suicide. This spooky, deliberate, largely dialogue-free mood piece begins in the bleak northern coast of Scotland and winds up in sun-drenched Spain, tracking the main character as she uses bizarre methods to start a new life. The last week in April brings a film from one of international cinema’s true mavericks, Alexander Sokurov. His Russian Ark is a single, unbroken 96-minute shot (the longest such shot in film history) that moves through the interiors of St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum as the ghostly presence of the Marquis de Custine, the 19th-century French nobleman famous for writing about Russia, tours the museum and witnesses events that took place there through the centuries.

With such interesting fare in the program’s future it appears that Fort Worth’s film scene has a bright new and permanent addition.

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