Local films, festivals, and faces

MFA retrospective recalls comic filmmaker Pierre Étaix

Julius Harris (left) and Ivan Dixon in “Nothing But a Man.”
MCA/Universal Pictures/Photofest
Julius Harris (left) and Ivan Dixon in “Nothing But a Man.”

Director and actor Pierre Étaix has been praised by a who’s who of the cinema’s great directors: Truffaut, Bresson, Godard, and David Lynch have all extolled his films, which draw on the art of silent cinema. Étaix’s movies combine physical comedy with inventive sight gags and a slightly surreal visual sensibility. Yet Étaix remains largely unknown outside France. The Museum of Fine Arts’s retrospective “The Films of Pierre Étaix” runs Friday through Jan. 18 and offers local audiences an unprecedented chance to discover a neglected master of comic filmmaking. Janus Films is supplying eight new prints: five features and three shorts that Étaix produced between 1961 and 1971, all restored in 35mm. In the 1969 comic feature “The Great Love” (Friday and Saturday), Étaix imagines an affair with his young secretary to escape the monotony of working in his father-in-law’s factory. Matters of the heart also concern his 1962 feature “The Suitor” (Saturday and next Sunday). The short “Happy Anniversary,” winner of the 1963 Academy Award for best short film, about Paris traffic delaying a husband’s anniversary dinner with his wife, precedes it.

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Pierre Étaix in “The Suitor.”

HFA rediscovery

The Harvard Film Archive offers another opportunity to rediscover a classic. Friday through Jan. 20 the HFA presents a newly restored 35mm print of the landmark film “Nothing But a Man” (1964), directed with documentary realism by Michael Roemer and featuring powerful performances from Ivan Dixon and newcomers Abbey Lincoln and Julius Harris. Roemer and photographer Robert M. Young spent several months in the segregated South preparing the script of their small, independent production — itself a rarity in the mid-’60s. Using only black actors but avoiding political posturing, the story is about the unlikely romance between Duff (Dixon), a railroad worker, and Josie (Lincoln), a schoolteacher and daughter of a prominent minister, in Birmingham, Ala. The film’s naturalistic evocation of the daily life of a black couple was groundbreaking and has earned the film wide acclaim.

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Raising visibility


A different look at race in America is provided by the next “Stage and Screen” collaboration between the Coolidge Corner Theatre and the Huntington Theatre Company. The Huntington’s production of “Invisible Man,” based on Ralph Ellison’s novel, plays through Feb. 3 at the Boston University Theatre. Playwright Oren Jacoby and others from the Huntington’s production of “Invisible Man” will visit the Coolidge Corner Theatre on Monday for a screening of Spike Lee’s 1989 classic, “Do the Right Thing,” Lee’s searing chronicle of events that bring festering racial tensions to the surface on the hottest day of the year in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, N.Y. The film features an ensemble cast including Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson, Rosie Perez, and John Turturro. After the screening, Jacoby and his colleagues will discuss how Ellison’s and Lee’s works have informed the dialogue about race in America.

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Local film premiere

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Boston filmmaker Julie Mallozzi, who teaches at Boston University and Massachusetts College of Art and Design, will premiere her newest documentary at the MFA on Thursday. “Indelible Lalita” is about Lalita Bharvani, a French-Canadian woman originally from India, whose resilient spirit survives her body’s painful transformation by cancer, heart failure, and a dramatic loss of skin pigment. According to the filmmaker, Lalita, now 60, “learns to let go of her body as the sign of her ethnicity and femininity — and ultimately realizes that her body is just a temporary vessel for her spirit.” Mallozzi will be joined by Bharvani and Pierre Lanthier, another of the film’s subjects, for a discussion after the Thursday screening. “Indelible Lalita” will screen Friday through Jan. 16. Mallozzi’s other films include “Once Removed” and “Monkey Dance.” An active member of Boston’s documentary community, she edited Ross McElwee’s “In Paraguay” and Sharon Linezo Hong’s “My Louisiana Love.”

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On the page

Longtime local film critic Dan Kimmel’s Hollywood-set comic science fiction novel, “Shh! It’s a Secret: A Novel About Aliens, Hollywood, and the Bartender’s Guide,” will make its debut at Arisia, a four-day science fiction convention at the Westin Boston Waterfront. Publisher Fantastic Books will be at the event Jan. 18-21, with its book launch party slated for Jan. 20. Kimmel, who teaches film at Suffolk University, has written four nonfiction books about Hollywood including the 2012 collection of essays “Jar Jar Binks Must Die . . . and Other Observations About Science Fiction Movies.” “Shh! It’s a Secret” is his first novel.

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Seeking shorts

“Mass Reality Check” at the Salem Film Festival is a showcase for current Massachusetts college and university undergraduate and graduate students working on short documentaries to screen their work at the festival. The sixth edition of the all-documentary SFF runs from March 7-14. “We look at this as a unique way to nurture young filmmaker talent in Massachusetts, while at the same time adding a pronounced Massachusetts component to our festival,” says Jeff Schmidt, SFF programmer. He adds that the SFF is partnering with local filmmaker resources including the LEF Foundation, Documentary Educational Resources, and The Independent. The groups will be part of an award package for winning filmmakers who, after the festival, will get advice about filmmaking, funding, distribution, and other professional considerations. The SFF will accept submissions until Jan. 18.

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Loren King can be reached at