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'American Beauty' to open campus film series

RELEASED: Aug. 25, 2010

'American Beauty' imageEAU CLAIRE — "American Beauty" (1999), winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, will open the campus film series Sept. 3-5 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. The film will screen at 6 and 8:30 p.m. in Davies Theatre.

Kevin Spacey stars as Lester Burnham, a magazine writer with a wife (Annette Bening) who hates him, a 16-year-old daughter (Thora Birch) who regards him with contempt and a boss who is positioning him for the ax. Lester decides to make some changes in his life that are less midlife crisis than adolescence reborn. The freer he gets, the happier he gets, which is even more maddening to his family especially when he becomes smitten with one of his daughter's high-school classmates (Mena Suvari).

Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan called the movie "a blood-chilling dark comedy with unexpected moments of both fury and warmth, a strange, brooding and very accomplished film that sets us back on our heels from its opening frames. 'American Beauty's' subject is the hollow space behind the American dream, the frustrations that hide under the perfectly mannered surfaces of our lives."

Chris Cooper, Peter Gallagher and Wes Bentley co-star in Sam Mendes' directorial debut. The 122-minute film is rated R for strong sexuality, language, violence and drug content.

Admission to all campus films is free at the door with a Blugold Card or an International Film Society membership card. Community members may buy an individual IFS membership for $4; a family membership costs $10. The annual memberships are available at the Service Center, 715-836-3727, in Davies Center's east lobby.

The following films also will be presented during the fall semester:

  • "Renaissance" (France/U.K./Luxembourg 2006), Sept. 9-12. This highly stylized sci-fi thriller utilizes live-action motion capture, animated in 3D and rendered in high-contrast black-and-white to create a graphic novel come to life. In the year 2054, the city of Paris lives in the shadow of a multinational corporation that sells the irresistible promise of ageless beauty. The kidnapping of a gifted young scientist draws a tough-as-nails cop (Daniel Craig) into a twisted underworld of corporate espionage, genetic research and organized crime.
  • "In the Loop" (U.K. 2009), Sept. 16-19. Spun off from the BBC TV series "The Thick of It," this fast-talking political farce about the road to war was nominated for an Academy Award (Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay). A bumbling British government minister (Tom Hollander) makes a verbal snafu during a TV interview, inadvertently backing a U.S. war in the Middle East. The Prime Minister's venomous communications chief (Peter Capaldi) attempts damage control as tensions quickly escalate on both sides of the pond. James Gandolfini and Mimi Kennedy co-star.
  • "The Cove" (U.S. 2009), Sept. 23-26. Winner of the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this eco-thriller follows a crack team of divers, activists and filmmakers as they infiltrate a hidden cove in Japan, to shine a light on a shocking crime against nature. The film exposes the slaughter of more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises off the coast of Japan every year, and reveals that their meat, containing toxic levels of mercury, is sold as food in Japan and other parts of Asia. The provocative mix of investigative journalism, eco-adventure and arresting imagery has inspired audiences worldwide to action.
  • "Big Man Japan" (Japan 2007), Sept. 30-Oct. 3. This wickedly deadpan spin on the giant Japanese superhero is an outrageous portrait of a pathetic but truly unique hero. Daisato is a middle-aged slacker living in a graffiti-ridden slum. His job involves being shocked by bolts of electricity that transform him into a stocky, stick-wielding giant several stories high who is entrusted with defending Japan from a host of bizarre monsters. But while his predecessors were national heroes, he is a pariah among the citizens he protects, who bitterly complain about the noise and destruction he causes.
  • "Children of God" (Bahamas 2009), Oct. 7-10. Juxtaposing the idyllic natural beauty of the Bahamas with its tumultuous and homophobic political and religious climate, Kareem Mortimer's debut feature tells the stories of three very different individuals. Lena is the conservative, deeply religious wife of a secretly gay firebrand pastor; Jonny is a white artist struggling to express himself creatively in a world where his truth is considered a crime; and Romeo is a handsome young black man hiding his sexuality from his close-knit and loving family. Each of their journeys leads to the beautiful island of Eleuthera, where their disparate worlds collide.
  • "The Secret of Kells" (France/Belgium/Ireland 2009), Oct. 14-17. Magic, fantasy and Celtic mythology come together in a riot of color in this sweeping story about the power of imagination and faith to carry humanity through dark times. Young Brendan lives in a remote medieval outpost under siege from barbarian raids. Adventure beckons when a master illuminator arrives from foreign lands carrying an ancient but unfinished book, filled with secret wisdom. To help complete the Book of Kells, Brendan must embark on a dangerous quest into the enchanted forest where mythical creatures hide.
  • "Devdas" (India 2002), Oct. 21-24. Sumptuous production values dominate this cinematic spectacle of doomed love adapted from an iconic 1917 novella by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay. Devdas (Shah Rukh Khan) and his lovely playmate Paro (Aishwarya Rai) shared a magnetic childhood, and their supreme love for each other was felt before it was understood. When Devdas returns from 10 years of studies in London, he and Paro hope to be married but family conflict and a fateful moment of weakness separate them.
  • "Dead Snow" (Norway 2009), Oct. 28-31. Eight hard-partying medical students have all they need for a successful Easter vacation in the Norwegian Alps: remote cabin, skis, snowmobile, toboggan, copious amounts of beer and a fertile mix of the sexes. But once in the snowy hills, they uncover a dark secret from World War II that resurrects a battalion of extremely undead Nazis. What follows is a blitzkrieg of bloodshed, body parts and Teutonic zombie carnage.
  • "Le Samourai" (France/Italy 1967), Nov. 4-7. This austere, razor-sharp cocktail of 1940s American gangster cinema and 1960s French pop culture stars Alain Delon as a killer-for-hire who lives by a rigid code. "A luminous lesson in how men behaved when they believed behavior mattered" (David Thomson), Jean-Pierre Melville's gravely cool feature is listed as one of film critic Roger Ebert's Great Movies.
  • "Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical" (U.S. 2005), Nov. 11-14. The notorious 1936 anti-marijuana propaganda film inspired this campy musical comedy about clean-cut kids who fall into a twisted, hilarious downward spiral of reefer, sex and mayhem. Alan Cumming stars as a stern traveling lecturer who tells frightened parents a frightful tale of youth gone wrong under the influence of the demon weed. Kristen Bell, Christian Campbell, Neve Campbell and Ana Gasteyer star.
  • "My Winnipeg" (Canada 2007), Nov. 18-21. Iconoclastic filmmaker Guy Maddin was commissioned to create this genre-bending docu-fantasia about his hometown. Equal parts mystical rumination and personal history, city chronicle and deranged post-Freudian proletarian fantasy, the movie which is framed as a goodbye letter blends local myth with childhood trauma. Maddin's beautifully personal meditation on belief and truth, memory and myth was named Best Canadian Film at the Toronto International Film Festival.
  • "The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus" (U.K./Canada/France 2009), Dec. 2-5. Terry Gilliam's fantastical morality tale tells the story of Dr. Parnassus (Christopher Plummer) and his Imaginarium, a travelling show where audience members may choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom. Blessed with the gift of guiding the imaginations of others, Dr. Parnassus is also cursed. In exchange for his extraordinary powers, he made a deal with Satan (Tom Waits) to turn over any child he may have at age 16. As his daughter is about to turn that fateful age, a mysterious stranger (Heath Ledger, in his last film) arrives with the power to change everything.
  • "The White Ribbon" (Austria/Germany/France/Italy 2009), Dec. 9-12. On the eve of World War I, a provincial village in northern Germany is plagued by a series of strange, violent incidents that inexplicably assume the characteristics of a punishment ritual. The village schoolteacher observes, investigates and, little by little, discovers the incredible truth. Michael Haneke's austere, unnerving black-and-white film won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The films all screen in Davies Theatre, a 250-seat theater in Davies Center on UW-Eau Claire's lower campus. Complete schedule information is available online or from the Activities and Programs office, 715-836-4833.

The campus film program is funded by the students of UW-Eau Claire. Films are selected and presented by the all-student University Activities Commission of the UW-Eau Claire Student Senate, and the International Film Society, an administrative committee composed of students, faculty, staff and community members. Since 1957 the International Film Series has represented various countries, cinematic styles, directorial methods, genres and points of view in films that help bring about a better understanding of other cultures as well as a lifelong love of film. The committees are advised by the Activities and Programs office of the University Centers.

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JS/DW

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