A trio of Toronto film fests are worth the trip
Royalty Hightower as Toni in THE FITS presented by Cultivate Cinema Circle.
There are scores of cool screenings in Buffalo this month, but Toronto is especially hopping. It might be worth adding a road trip to your April plans.
Hot Docs: North America’s largest documentary festival, held annually in Toronto, is a must-attend for anyone interested in nonfiction film. The lineup is always stunningly long and wonderfully diverse. This year features a special program called “The Changing Face of Europe,” a showcase of tennew documentaries illustrating and examining the current cultural, geographic, economic and political factors affecting Europe. Visit hotdocs.ca for a rundown and schedules, as well as info on tickets. (April 26-May 6; for schedule and locations, visit hotdocs.ca)
Images Festival: It is year thirty-one for Toronto’s Images Festival, an eight-day collection of films, events, and performances that promote and push the boundaries of contemporary moving image culture. The artist-driven fest is a nice alternative to September’s Toronto International Film Festival. (April 12 to 20; for schedule and locations, visit imagesfestival.com)
Toronto Silent Film Festival: This celebration of silent cinema is a treat for cinephiles. The festival opens on April 6 with 1921’s German adaptation of Hamlet, but the most notable highlight is the screening of Teinosuke Kinugasa’s A Page of Madness on April 7. This 1926 film from Japan is a terrifying masterpiece set in an asylum. (April 6-9; for schedule and locations, visit torontosilentfilmfestival.com)
The Hot Docs festival
Mighty WurliTzer Concert & Silent Film: Speaking of silent cinema, a film to be determined will be accompanied at the Riviera Theatre this month by Ken Double, president and chief executive of the American Theatre Organ Society. (7:30 p.m. at the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)
An Argento April at the Screening Room: Two films from horror master Dario Argento are among this month’s unique offerings at the Screening Room in Amherst. A restored version of Argento’s classic Suspiria screens at 7:30 p.m. on April 13, 14, and, while 1970’s The Bird With the Crystal Plumage follows on April 13 at 9:30. Soon to be remade, Suspiria is the story of a young ballet dancer’s horrifying experience at a German dance academy; Crystal Plumage is a lesser-known selection. The Screening Room frequently updates its schedule, so keep checking screeningroom.net. In addition, the Screening Room presents “dinner and a movie” featuring The Godfather Part II and spaghetti from My Tomato Pie on April 21.
Plus, John Carpenter’s wild sci-fi adventure, Big Trouble in Little China, screens on April 27 and April 28. The April 27 screening features 1980s movie trivia. (All events at the Screening Room, 880 Alberta Dr., Amherst; screeningroom.net)
Level Five at Squeaky Wheel: This 1997 film from Chris Marker, the late director of La Jetée and Sans Soleil, is a startling blend of sci-fi and documentary. Squeaky curatorial intern James Werick will introduce the screening. (7 p.m. on April 25 at Squeaky Wheel Film & Media Arts Center, 617 Main St.; squeaky.org)
Cultivate Cinema Circle—The Fits: CCC’s year-long Women Direct series continues with the 2016 debut from Anna Rose Holmer. The Fits is the acclaimed story of an eleven-year-old budding boxer who undergoes a journey of discovery. This is wonderful news, as Holmer’s film never played Buffalo during its theatrical run. (7 p.m. on April 12 at Hallwalls Contemporary Arts Center, 341 Delaware Ave.; cultivatecinemacircle.com)
Noir Essentials—Sweet Smell of Success, presented by Noir Essentials: The noir series held at the Eastern Hills Cinema unleashes one of the most mesmerizing performances in film history this month. Burt Lancaster’s work as columnist J.J. Hunsecker is a tour de force, and Tony Curtis is nearly as strong as a young press agent. Alexander Mackendrick’s 1957 feature is as startlingly cynical today as it was upon release. It’s also extremely prescient. (7:30 p.m. on April 18 at the Dipson Eastern Hills Cinema, 4545 Transit Rd., Williamsville; dipsontheatres.com)
Thursday Night Terrors—Nightmare City: Let’s head to Italy! With radioactive ghouls! Yes, this sounds like perfect Thursday Night Terrors fare. Umberto Lenzi’s 1980 sci-fi horror romp features a TV news reporter in a world overrun with radioactive monsters. This sounds like a blast. (7:30 p.m. on April 19 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; facebook.com/thursdaynightterrors)
Buffalo Film Seminars: First up on the BFS schedule this month is 1966’s Black Girl, an ahead-of-its-time story of a Sengalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white family (April 3). Al Pacino leads the cast of Dog Day Afternoon, Sidney Lumet’s 1975 tale of a New York robbery gone wrong (April 10). L’Argent, Robert Bresson’s 1983 final film, follows the journey of a counterfeit 500-franc bill (April 17). And 2001’s Mulholland Drive is more than one of David Lynch’s finest films. The thriller about a desperate actress (Naomi Watts) is one of the best features of the 2000s (April 24). (7 p.m. on April 3, 10, 17, and 24 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main St.; csac.buffalo.edu/bfs.html)
TCM Big Screen Classics—Grease: Is Grease a “classic”? I tend to think not, but the John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John musical certainly has its fans. This fortieth anniversary event will include exclusive commentary. (2 and 7 p.m. on April 8 and 11 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)
Old Chestnut Film Series—The Hucksters: The stellar trio of Clark Gable, Deborah Kerr, and Ava Gardner lead this 1947 film set in the radio advertising world. (7:30 p.m. on March 9 in the Community Room of the Phillip Sheridan School, 3200 Elmwood Ave., Kenmore; oldchestnut.com)
Roycroft Film Society—Frantz: A 2016 Toronto International Film Festival special presentation, Frantz is a World War I-set mystery from François Ozon, the director of Swimming Pool. Shot in gorgeous black and white, it’s the story of a young woman mourning the loss of her fiance, and the Frenchman who may be responsible for his death. (4 p.m. on April 8 at Parkdale Elementary School, 141 Girard Ave., East Aurora; roycroftcampuscorp.com)
The Royal Opera House presents Carmen: The Dipson Amherst presents a simulcast of Bizet’s opera. (11 a.m. on April 15 at the Dipson Amherst Theatre, 3500 Main. St.; dipsontheatres.com)
Cherry Blossom Fest screenings at the North Park: Two film screenings are set as part of the 2018 Cherry Blossom Fest, an annual event meant to highlight the cherry grove tree in Buffalo’s Japanese Garden. First, on April 28, is the New York State Premiere of 2017 Toronto International Film Festival selection The Third Murder. The story of a defense attorney who takes a murder-robbery case is the latest from the great director Hirokazu Kore-eda (Like Father, Like Son and After the Storm). The second scheduled film, set for April 29, is Oh, Lucy! It's the story of an unfulfilled woman in Tokyo who develops feelings for the instructor of her English class, played by Josh Hartnett. (The Third Murder: 11:30 a.m. on April 28; Oh, Lucy!: 11:30 a.m. on April 29; at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)
A Farewell to Arms at the North Park: The 1957 Hemingway adaptation starring Rock Hudson screens in CinemaScope as part of the Buffalo & Erie County Library’s “One Community, One Book” initiative. (11:30 a.m. on April 14-15 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)
Tall: The American Skyscraper & Louis Sullivan at the North Park: In the documentary partly filmed outside the Guaranty Building in downtown Buffalo, filmmaker Manfred Kirchheimer studies Louis Sullivan and the rise of skyscrapers. (11:30 a.m. on April 7-8 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)
Ice Age films at the Riviera: Two entries in the ever-popular Ice Age franchise, Ice Age: Continental Drift and Ice Age: Collision Course, screen at the Riviera Theatre on April 8 and 15, respectively. (3 p.m. on April 8 and April 15 at the Riviera Theatre, 67 Webster St., N. Tonawanda; rivieratheatre.org)
Flick Fest Student Film Festival: Middle and high school students from Western New York and southern Ontario present their work at this free film festival. (7 p.m. on April 26 at the North Park Theatre, 1428 Hertel Ave.; northparktheatre.org)
Fathom Events presents The Cat Returns and Labyrinth: The ongoing Studio Ghibli Fest continues in April with The Cat Returns, the story of a young girl’s adventure with the King of Cats. And three screenings of Jim Henson’s Labyrinth, the iconic fantasy adventure starring David Bowie, kick off on April 29. (The Cat Returns: Dubbed version: 12:55 p.m. on April 22 and 7 p.m. on April 25; subtitled version: 7 p.m. on April 23; Labyrinth: 2 and 7 p.m. on April 29, 7 p.m. on May 1 and 2; at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)
“Survival Sunday”: Walking Dead fans, take note, as the season finale of zombie series and the season premiere of spinoff Fear the Walking Dead screen, minus commercials, at the Elmwood and Transit Regal cinemas. The organizers note that “attending in costume is fine, however masks, face-concealing make-up, fake weapons as well as any costumes that conceal what you are carrying, your natural body shape or face are strictly prohibited.” (8:30 p.m. on April 15 at the Regal Elmwood Center, 2001 Elmwood Ave., and Regal Transit Center, 6707 Transit Rd., Williamsville; fathomevents.com)
Christopher Schobert is a film critic whose worked has appeared in the Buffalo News and numerous other outlets.