Mark Metcalf

Monday Night at the Movies

By - Mar 2nd, 2009 12:46 am
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The Milwaukee International Film Festival wriggled, wormlike and whimpering, out the door last year, primarily because the founder was unable to release the choking grip he had on its throat. But the people who made it work – the heart, the lungs, the arms and legs, and to a great degree the brain of the former festival – have found a new face and are creating a world class film festival for Milwaukee to be proud of. It will be known simply as The Milwaukee Film Festival.

One of their first events is a series called Monday Night At the Movies. Every Monday beginning March 23rd, at the Marcus Theatres North Shore Cinema, The Milwaukee Film Festival, in partnership with Marcus Theatres, will be screening films from around the world – films that you otherwise would never get the chance to see here in Milwaukee.

It is a partnership that has been a long time coming. The primary venue for the festival next September will still be the beautiful Oriental Theatre on Farwell, but Marcus will be continuing their partnership through and including the 2009 Film Festival. One would think that a film festival in Milwaukee would have to work with the Marcus Theatres, but apparently there was some friction between the previous board and Marcus so it never happened. Now, thankfully, it can.

Like any city, Milwaukee consists of a lot of small, tight knit neighborhoods: the East Side, Bayview, the North Shore, River West, Wauwatosa, the West Side, the Third Ward, Walker’s Point. There has always been and continues to be a degree of chauvinism within each neighborhood that enables it to, while celebrating itself, turn its back on the neighborhood next door and perhaps remain somewhat ignorant of what is going on over the back fence. One of the goals of the Film Festival is to bring all those neighborhoods, those ethnicities, and those differences together.

It is a bold, ambitious move, especially at a time when resources are significantly low, to reach out to new partners and new population centers.The earlier festival focused on the East Side and downtown, where it was born.As it grew in size and in ambition it began to reach out to other neighborhoods.The Times Cinema in Wauwatosa was a venue.The Skylight Opera in the Broadway Theatre Center in the Third Ward was a partner for a few events.And there has always been the hope that developers will bring back the beautiful Avalon Theatre in Bayview so that neighborhood could also be an energy center for the Festival.With the Marcus Theatres North Shore Cinema offering this series of Monday nights, the Festival will enter into another neighborhood and bring another diverse population under its umbrella.

Each of the films presented will be introduced by someone from the community with a specific knowledge of the film and the area it represents, and the audience will be invited to come to a discussion group afterward at a nearby restaurant, bar or book store with local filmmakers to analyze and talk about the film. In every way. the attempt is being made to bring people together, bring communities together and establish bonds through discussion of a shared experience. It is well worth our support. And the movies look good too.


On the set of A Christmas Tale

The first film, on March 23, is A Christmas Tale, directed by Arnaud Descplechin and starring Catherine Deneuve. One doesn’t ordinarily think of French films and family comedies at the same time, but this is family French-style, which is a little more like Chekhov, or the great Jean Renoir than it is like Meet the Fockers. Deneuve won a Special Prize at Cannes in 2008 for her performance and the film was the most celebrated foreign film of last year. It is a joyous experience to watch this sophisticated family fall all over themselves trying to deal with the news that Junon, Deneuve’s character, has a terminal illness at the same time that they try to celebrate Christmas.

The following week, Monday March 30th, is Carlos Saura’s Fados, which is a magical musical journey through Portugal. Saura was the director of the 2007 Festival hit Iberia.

One of the great advantages of having an international film festival in your neighborhood is that you can travel the world, visit other cultures and experience the vast diversity of life and you need neither a passport nor Imodium. This series takes you from France, to Portugal, Kazakhstan, the Czech Republic, Austria and back to North America and the United States with the last film in the series, Anvil! The Story of Anvil,the story of the Canadian metal band that influenced Metallica and Anthrax but never made it in their own right.

If you go to the Milwaukee Film web site,, you can learn about the full program, which continues every Monday through April 27th.

Tickets are available at the North Shore Cinema box office or online at

Categories: Movies

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