Among the first four offerings are Jacques Demy's 1967 cotton-candy musical, The Young Girls of Rochefort (starring Catherine Deneuve and her sister, who died in a car crash shortly after the film's release); Carlos Diegues' Orfeu, the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, set during Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro; and Amos Gitai's Kippur, called "bloody, vivid and unvarnished" by The New York Times and compared in intensity to Saving Private Ryan and The Big Red One.
Kansas City audiences can request that Harrington e-mail them background information on each film. (Log onto tivolikc.com.) These updates should help attendees prepare for panel discussions following each Sunday screening (the films will be shown once a day Thursdays through Sundays), where Harrington and University of Missouri-Kansas City film studies professor Tom Poe offer their insights.
Ziad Doueiri's West Beirut kicks off the series this week. Set in 1975, the film realistically depicts encroaching terror as the city suddenly is cut in half, with Muslims segregated in the west and Christians in the east. Doueiri fills his movie with unschooled young people who can't really act. (Even in a chilling scene where they are stopped at the Muslim-Christian border, they look death in the eye and smirk, seeming strangely amused by the fact that they're in a movie.) Even so, he succinctly captures the randomness of war; in one scene, the residents of an apartment complex wake up to bombs exploding just off their terraces.
Though West Beirut may not be to our tastes, the smorgasbord to come looks to be a zesty alternative to the movies about cheerleaders or animatronic farm animals that's playing at the multiplexes near you.