A beautiful restoration of the 1924 silent version, one of the loveliest movies for and about children ever made. Though he’s forgotten now, director Herbert Brenon was a formidable figure in the teens and 20s, also known for his work with Annette Kellerman and Theda Bara, his subsequent James Barrie adaptation A Kiss for Cinderella, and his 1926 adaptations of Beau Geste and The Great Gatsby. Peter Pan also benefits from a script by Willis Goldbeck, the superb cinematography of James Wong Howe, and some very charming special effects by Roy Pomeroy, the same man who parted the Red Sea in De Mille’s 1923 The Ten Commandments. The cast includes Betty Bronson in the title role, Ernest Torrence as Captain Hook, and Anna May Wong as Tiger Lily. (My own favorite is the only carryover from the stage production, George Ali as Nana the dog.) David Drazin will provide piano accompaniment and, judging from what he played at the preview, this will be a wonderful enhancement, especially sensitive when it comes to dealing with Tinkerbell. Children under 12 will be admitted free when accompanied by an adult. 105 min. Univ. of Chicago Doc Films, 1212 E. 59th, Thursday, May 4, 7:00, 773-702-8575.
I’ve been late in catching up with Sadie Benning’s magnum opus to date (1998)–a 50-minute black-and-white video shot on both film and Pixelvision in Milwaukee, concentrating on the inner life of an androgynous 11-year-old girl–but it’s certainly everything I hoped it would be. It begins and ends with a montage of rusty urban landscapes that uncharacteristically recalls the work of her father, James Benning, but the really startling thing about this video is that all the characters wear strikingly painted, life-size masks, which gives a kind of surrealist overlay to the feeling of intimacy captured by Benning’s uses of Pixelvision. Her mode is still autobiographical/confessional, but the use of fiction gives her a lot more freedom, accounting for not only the masks but some animation as well. Gender issues are still at the forefront of her concerns, widened here to include the relations between family members and playmates as well as friends and lovers, and the lyricism of Benning’s angle of vision remains as weird and wonderful as ever. 57 min. Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Thursday, May 4, 7:30, 312-443-3737. –Jonathan Rosenbaum
Joe Gould’s Secret
This charming and evocative period piece about Greenwich Village in the 40s is also a subtle cautionary tale for writers against the danger of losing all your work in talk. The delicate and wryly witty screenplay by Howard A. Rodman, perhaps best known for his work with Steven Soderbergh, tells the true story of shy southern New Yorker editor Joseph Mitchell (Stanley Tucci, who also directed) discovering and profiling the legendary Joe Gould (Ian Holm in a career-defining performance). Gould, a homeless bohemian and raging lunatic–kind of a Mr. Natural before the fact–professes to be writing something called “The Oral History of Our Time,” but it never quite materializes. The fact that Mitchell himself retreated into silence after writing a second Gould profile in the 60s suggests either that Gould’s dissipation had a snowball effect or that Mitchell became Gould’s doppelganger. Either way, this is a movie to savor, not one to scarf. With Patricia Clarkson, Hope Davis, and Susan Sarandon. Fine Arts.
An Australian journalist (Rachel Griffiths) who’s pushing 40 wonders what her life would have been like if she’d married her boyfriend, had kids, and settled down to a more conventional existenceand lo and behold, she turns into a woman who’s done precisely that and finds out. In her feature debut, writer-director Pip Karmel, who worked as an editor on Shine, brings a fair amount of sincerity but very little originality to this good-natured comedy, apart from a willingness to include graphic gags about such domestic chores as inserting a diaphragm and teaching toilet training. Some women viewers may respond more favorably than I did; I found this easy to take but ultimately rather aimless.104 min. (JR)