Monday, September 15, 2014

Thanks for 'Frank,' Back Alley Film Series

I would watch Michael Fassbender, one of the greatest actors of his generation, in any film he made. That includes one where he spends the movie inside a giant plastic head, as the leader of a willfully obscure rock band:

This unclassifiable picture also stars Domhnall Gleason as a would-be musician who lucks into a gig with the band -- he replaces a guy who attempted to drown himself, perhaps with reason -- and insists on trying to make the group famous, despite Frank's ambivalence (and possible mental illness) and his bandmates' loathing.

I write this not to recommend the movie to you, although I do, but to thank Back Alley Film Series for giving us a chance to see it on the big screen. It gets one airing at Carolina Cinemas Crownpoint, 9630 Monroe Rd. (at the North Sardis Road intersection), Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

Many people haven't yet heard about Back Alley, an arm of the long-running Charlotte Film Society. Folks may know the CFS for its Saturday Night Cine Club, a mix of foreign and alternative films that didn't get full-run distribution in Charlotte.

Back Alley sprang into being to promote films that didn't suit the Cine Club audience, which is often older and more conservative in its tastes. Back Alley has run an odd but appealing gamut from the restored 1927 silent "Metropolis" to an upcoming 40th anniversary tribute to "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre."

It brought both of Lars von Trier's recent features, the provocatively thoughtful "Melancholia" and the four-hour "Nymphomaniac," in which a sex addict recounts erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating. If Back Alley applied a motto to its overall programming, it might be "Something for anybody and nothing that's for everybody."

The CFS recently embarked on a third project, Charlotte Film Lab, to bring writers and directors to town to explain their philosophy and process. For most of its first 30 years, the society had a sophisticated, almost highbrow tone. Today it appeals to highbrows, lowbrows and every brow in between, and we're better off for it.

P.S. As of Friday night, Back Alley has added one more screening. (The first sold out.) It's at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the same theater. Check it out!